In October 2017, the ‘4 Cancer Group’ entered into an ambitious partnership with the University of Brighton to quantify the impact of the charity’s various respite programmes. As part of the project, the charity jointly funded a PhD programme with the University of Brighton. Oliver Thurlow started his PhD in late 2017 and at the same time also became the charity’s Chief Researcher.
Two years into the four year study, Oliver’s findings are helping to shape the charity’s care offering. Based purely on feedback from families the charity has helped, we are continually improving the respite services that the charity offers. These range from days out for the ‘family unit’ to longer short-breaks for families affected by cancer.
The research outcomes suggest that five ‘core themes’ are at the heart of what the charity does. These are as follows:
- Outdoor engagement helps with personal reflection
- Being physically active improves health
- Learning new skills boosts confidence
- Activities – as bucket list opportunities
- Social support for the whole family
Through the above impacts, the 4 Cancer Group’s existing respite programme offers support for the whole ‘family unit’ and facilitates both individual and group well-being.
Of key significance to our work at the ‘4 Cancer Group’ is the NHS’s own strategy which places ‘patient experience’ and ‘quality of life’ at the centre of its mandate for patient care. In its strategy “Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes – A strategy for England 2015-2020“, the Independent Cancer Taskforce (the specialist team responsible for this publication), have formally recognised the principal needs that exist for those living with cancer.
Through the introduction of ‘Recovery Packages’, the NHS aims to assist in bio-psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery after an experience of cancer. More specifically, both the recovery package and follow-up pathways stress the importance of physical activity as being a crucial component of the recovery process. The announcement also identifies the charity sector as being crucial partners in providing services to aid transition and rehabilitation.
The 4 Cancer Group’s approach of using “green and blue spaces”, specifically outdoor and water based activities, are being tailored specifically to the needs of the families we help. Our green and blue models of care “use nature in a goal-directed manner to maintain and enhance people’s well-being”. The three essential components of both green and blue care are community, action and of course, nature.
Environmental psychologists have long associated green and blue spaces as therapeutic places that can alleviate the signs and symptoms of physiological and psychological stress. As well as individual benefits, both spaces promote inclusion and belonging to a meaningful purpose. The 4 Cancer Group’s activities from a green perspective include health walks, cycling, running and outdoor recreation, whilst our blue care activities have ranged from many different forms of inland and coastal water-sports.
This, therefore, not only continues to support the 4 Cancer Group’s mandate of creating memories for people affected by cancer, but also supports the existing recommendations by institutional governing bodies, such as the NHS, The Cancer Taskforce and Macmillan, to ensure “that those living with and beyond cancer get the care and support they need to lead as healthy and active a life as possible, for as long as possible”.